Scotch Whisky Association chief steps down

David Frost is leaving the Scotch Whisky Association to work for Boris Johnson. Picture: Contributed
David Frost is leaving the Scotch Whisky Association to work for Boris Johnson. Picture: Contributed
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Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) chief executive David Frost is leaving the organisation to take up a new role as foreign affairs special adviser to the UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson.

Frost will leave the SWA on 4 November to return to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), the whisky industry trade body said yesterday.

Scotch whisky is a wonderful industry to represent

David Frost

His abrupt departure comes less than a week after the SWA lost its legal battle in the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court, against the introduction of 50p per unit minimum pricing for alcohol north of the Border. However, Scotsman sources said the timing of the two issues was completely unrelated.

READ MORE: Whisky industry loses battle over minimum drink price

Frost replaced Gavin Hewitt as SWA chief executive in January 2014. Before that he was a career diplomat by profession and had held various senior roles in the FCO, including as British Ambassador to Denmark, and in the then Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).

He said yesterday: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as chief executive and I want to thank SWA members and my team for their support.

“Scotch whisky is a wonderful industry to represent, vital to Scotland and to Britain, operating on a global scale, and held in affection by so many around the world. I leave the association and the industry well-placed to continue to succeed in a competitive market-place during a time of change, including Brexit.”

SWA deputy chief executive Julie Hesketh-Laird will be acting CEO for the interim period before the appointment of a new CEO. Hesketh-Laird joined the SWA in 2005 as director of operational & technical affairs and was additionally appointed deputy chief executive in December 2014.

SWA chairman Pierre Pringuet, who is also vice-president of spirits giant Pernod Ricard, owner of Scotland’s second largest whisky business, said: “David has successfully modernised the association during a challenging time for the industry both economically and politically.

“We have very much valued his leadership and I am confident he leaves the SWA in a good position to face the future.”

READ MORE: Where are the biggest growth markets for Scotch whisky?

At nearly £4 billion in customs value, Scotch whisky exports are the biggest single net contributor to the UK’s trade balance in goods, and the country’s largest food and drink export.

Export volumes of Scotch whisky edged up 3.1 per cent in the first half of 2016 – the first increase since 2013.

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